Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 59th UMNO General Assembly 2009

Will it bring about a new hope?

All eyes are on the Umno general assembly this week. Malaysians from all walks of life regardless of ethnicity are watching closely what transpires at this assembly as the deliberations by the 2,500 or so delegates and the resolutions adopted by them, to some extent, affect every Malaysian in some way or another.

Umno has played such a dominant role in the country’s 52-year rule under the Alliance and then the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition. Together with its major non-Malay partners, the MCA and the MIC and other minor partners, it can be said that it has ruled this multiracial and multi- religion nation reasonably well to elevate the status of the country to where it is today. However like all political parties in uninterrupted power for so long, of late signs of arrogance, apathy and corruption have begun to set in which were glaring in the eyes of the voters in the last general election.

The results of that general election showed that the support of the people for the coalition has declined drastically and the BN was forced to undergo an in-depth soul-searching for the reasons of their loss. It was the first time in over 50 years that Unmo-BN realised that it could lose its power to rule the nation.

It was the first time it dawned on them that they could be rendered irrelevant by the next elections in 2013 if genuine change does not come. Umno-BN realises the need for drastic change and its leaders have pledged to bring that change.

Unfortunately, Malaysians have yet to see any tangible sign that those changes are coming.

The Umno general assembly this year is also of special significance as it marks the transition of power of its president and thereby the prime minister. In his speech at the opening of the Umno Youth and Wanita assemblies, incoming president Najib Abdul Razak called for a change of mindset and for the party to adopt wide ranging reforms to remain relevant to the younger generation.

Najib is taking over the premiership at a very difficult time when the nation is ethnically divided, corruption rampant, with a a stronger and more hostile opposition to deal with and not to forget the looming economic crisis.

Most importantly it is a time of increased maturity and wisdom of the populace that demands greater accountability and transparency. Whether Najib will be able to turn these unfavourable factors to his advantage remains to be seen in the coming weeks and months.

To show that he is sincere and serious about wanting change, Najib can start by ensuring that the Umno general assembly this time conducts itself in a manner that will be earn the respect of Malaysians of all races. It should debate the issues facing the country in a fair and unbiased manner and refrain from resorting to words and actions that hurt the sensitivities of others.

The assembly should not be an avenue to bash the opposition and its leaders but rather a forum to find solutions to the numerous problems that plague the nation.

Umno may be an organisation for the Malays but being the backbone of the multiracial BN, it cannot confine itself to championing the rights of the Malays alone.

It has the moral obligation to cater for the welfare of all Malaysians, working hand-in-hand with its other partners in BN. The people, not just the Malays but the non-Malays as well, look up to Umno for their well-being and for opportunities.

It was the fairness and the caring attitude of the pioneer leaders of Umno towards all citizens that earned the party the admiration and respect of all the races. Unfortunately, of late, particularly after the last general elections, Umno is becoming increasingly more suspicious of the other races and adopting a pro-Malay stance. It may be due to the unfounded fear that the non-Malays are undermining their right and authority to rule.

It has gone to the extent of labeling Malays who cooperate with other races in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat as being ‘traitors’. If this trend continues, the future for racial integration, unity and peaceful coexistence will be bleak.

Najib, the incoming Umno leader and prime minister, has an important task to eliminate the mistrust and suspicion among the races and uniting them to build a harmonious nation where everyone regardless of ethnic origin can be proud to be called Malaysian.

We hope he can bring about the change he promised, a change that will envisage the mutual cooperation between the various races in the country for lasting peace, comradeship, progress and prosperity.

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